Monday, September 17, 2012

Sleepy Mommy

My whole life I have had spurts of insomnia. Many many nights where I wake up and stare at the ceiling. Times when no amount of tossing and turning results in sleep. Well, at least not until its almost time to get up. The foggy head that follows is one of the worst feelings I have ever had. Funny enough, my sleep has actually improved since the birth of my baby.

When I arrived home from the hospital I was not able to sleep right away. The first few nights my mind was running constantly, I kept reliving the labour, the birth, and imagining the baby. I couldn't shut my mind off and was unable to go to sleep on demand. With the baby feeding every three hours and each feed taking at least an hour, I usually had 3 or 4 90 minute intervals during the night when I could steal sleep, but I struggled to maximize these opportunities. When the baby monitor would come to life I would instantly start bargaining with baby, begging for another hour or for it not to be the real thing. I was not able to get 90 minutes, sometimes barely 30.

Thankfully my little one napped frequently during the day and once my mind calmed down after the new had worn off the whole experience, I was able to take solid naps during the day. The naps were heavy, I would wake feeling sore on the side I had slept on. My ears and legs hurt because the deep sleep pressed so hard into the bed. I was starting to come around and now I could sleep more efficiently, and was getting more out of the nighttime intervals. I drifted into dreams much sooner and felt more rested on less sleep.

Once my son was six weeks old he only got up once at night, around 3 am. He was feeding better so it wasn't quite an hour that he needed and I was able to go right back to sleep. At the nine week mark he shocked us all and slept through the night pretty regularly, with only occasional nights where he woke in the middle needing a feed or a diaper change.  As he was working out a schedule, a lot of times I would grab another hour of sleep after his first morning feed, particularily if he woke around 6 or earlier. My husband would get up with him as he had to be up for work soon, so I would greedily go back down for another hour. This had negative results though. I felt more rushed when I did get up, trying to shower and grab breakfast before my husband left; and I also felt more groggy.

My coping strategy was to stop giving into this tired heaviness at 6am and GET UP! I felt more awake, and got so much more done. On lucky days when my son naps I can sneak a few winks and if I can't get to, when I hit the pillow in the night I am beat. The bonus here is that I am sleeping so well. I still wake in the middle of the night but I go back to sleep much more easily than I ever have in my life.

Who would have ever thought that having a baby would improve your sleep!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Nap Time Trials

Sleep is something that my little guy was always good at - at night. In the beginning, he slept for the best part of the day like a good little newborn. While he did get up to feed at night three or more times, he always went back to sleep with just five minutes in the rocker and with some soothing music from his aquarium mobile. Laying him down at night has proven easier than daytime napping, which has been challenging.

I decided to let my little guy sleep in his crib in his own room when he was two weeks old. This decision was based on my belief that he would be okay in the crib and that it would be easier for him to adjust to sleeping in his own room when he was so small, and I have not been sorry! This arrangement also helped him recognize the difference between daytime and nighttime. In the day he napped in his bassinet in our living room. This way he was around noise and bright lights in the day, and darkness and quiet in the night.  The bassinet had a feature that played music and vibrated. The vibrator was great to help keep him asleep. I would press the button as soon as I laid him down to curb any fussiness. This feature is not available in the crib unfortunately.

I have been trying to get him to take naps in his crib in the daytime and I'm trying to set a nap time, or least a ball park nap time. This hasn't been easy. The reality of it - my little guy does not like to nap in the daytime. When he needs one I can see him rubbing his eyes and yawning, but he fights sleep a lot of the time. Great tricks that I fall back on are taking him for a drive or for a walk, rocking him or nursing him to sleep. My dream is seeing these eye rubs, placing him in his crib, and him dozing off peacefully. He surprisingly does this very well at night, but cries during the day. I have tried placing him in his crib either when I see those tired signs or around the time when he has shown tired signs on previous days. I wait roughly 15 minutes and if he's still crying I take him out. This method has yet to produce any results. I think my expectations have been a little high here so I changed my focus and now I put him down after he has already fallen asleep, with the idea of getting him used to waking up in his crib. The trouble here was him waking up once he was lying down. After much trial and error I have discovered a trick - have a nummy ready in his crib so if he cries give it to him and/or turn on his mobile immediately. This has shown some success, but his naps continue to be very short. I just want him to get some sleep in the day, so I have accepted the fact when he decides to nap no matter how long, I will just go with it.  I will update as the nap training progresses, but so far the only success is placing him heavily asleep armed with my nummy/music combo. But its a start.

Momma's Musts

  • Scheduling is tough. Getting your baby on any kind of sleep routine takes time and a baby's sleeping needs change so much in the first few months of life. Relax and don't attempt a schedule too soon, let your baby adjust.
  • Transition when you are ready. "They" all seem to have an opinion on when the "right" time is to put your baby in his/her own room in the crib. Trust your own instincts. When you feel that you and baby are ready, give it a try.
  • Have tricks. Try different ways to lull baby to sleep and have toys or music to help sustain the sleep. Keep these tricks for tough times when you are training for nap times.
  • Have patience. It can be annoying and overwhelming when you slink away from a sleeping baby relieved that he/she is finally asleep only to hear the picking cries just seconds after you finally pour yourself some tea or get comfortable on the couch. It takes time!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Pumped about Pumping!

Once baby came and I fudged along with the first few days of breastfeeding, the nagging questions about pumping surfaced. How long? What time of day? How much milk should I expect? When should I give baby a bottle? I had no idea and no real answers to any of these questions. I asked friends with babies and a couple of public health nurses. The opinions were conflicting. One source told me that she never pumped and just breastfed, that it was better to maintain that closeness throughout the entire time of breastfeeding. To each their own, but I thought that this wasn't a good decision for the following reasons : 
  • One - What happens in an emergency situation when you are unable to be there and your baby refuses a bottle because you waited too long? What then?
  • Two - What about having a life outside baby? It is important for mommy to have some time alone away from baby and it is also important for baby to get used to being away from mommy.
  • Three - My husband wanted to play a role in feeding our baby and it wouldn't be fair to hog this responsibility totally.
Other sources told me that it is recommeded to wait until you have been breastfeeding for 6 weeks to make sure breastfeeding is well established and to avoid nipple confusion (baby getting mixed up between mom's nipple and the artificial ones from bottles). Someone else said that I should start as early as two or three weeks to have some on hand for emergencies.

In short - I was confused. What was the right way to do this? Like so many aspects of having a baby I was ultimately left to my own devices to make this decision.  So here's how I handled it.

About two weeks in, I started pumping whatever was left over after the feeding off my main breast. I had to do this with several feedigns about a day or so to get a few ounces and I soon learned to store roughly four ounces at a time. I stored the milk in the refridgerator (lasts for 6 days) and some more in the freezer (lasts 6 months). Picking the right time of day to get the most milk was tricky and trying not to pump too much to avoid producing too much milk was a guessing game as well. It took me over a month to have a strong enough supply and to know enough to be efficient at pumping.  Now I pump first thing in the morning after my baby feeds, using the breast that baby didn't feed from. I maintain at least three 4-5 ounce bottles in the refridgerator at all times and any additional milk is stored in the freezer (unless I am anticipating a night out or another event in the near future).

Another question - what kind of pump to get? I bought my pump knowing only that I believed electrical pumps were better. The one I ended up getting was a 3-in-1 - electrical, battery operated and manual all in one.  I used the electrical part exclusively for about 4 months. It took roughly 30 minutes to get between 4 and 5 ounces and was tricky. Sometimes the slightest movement would make me lose suction and I would be back to the start - trying to trigger let down again.  Then the pump sort of died about 4 months in - the suction dropped suddenly and it went to a snail's pace. I was upset, I needed a new pump. They are not cheap, nearly $200 for the one that I wanted. In desperation I dug out the manual attachment just to try it. Not only did it work, it was better and faster than the electrical component. I could get my required 4-5 ounces in under 10 minutes. It was so much more efficient. Had I known this in my pre-pumping days I would have just bought a manual pump for a much lower price, they run between $50-$100.

Finally - when to give baby his first bottle? I thought six weeks was too long to wait, no matter what "they" said.  I also thought that nipple confusion would be more likely the longer I waited. So just before baby turned three weeks old, he had his first bottle from daddy. It took awhile for him to figure out what to do with the nipple but we had success! After that I made sure he got a bottle at least once a week so he wouldn't forget how to take one. Now at 4 months old he usually has 3-4 bottles a week with no problems and he has not shown a preference to the bottle over the breast which was something else I was concerned with.

Momma's Musts :
  • Pumping is personal.....but. If you don't pump you may not have a back-up plan in case of emergency (trust me, it can happen), you will never get much time off and you will not be able to share feeding your baby with his/her other caregivers. I am no expert, but I highly recommend pumping.
  • Manual is best - that's what I think! Fancy electrical pumps cost more and are actually less efficient both in how much milk you get and how long it takes. Go green too - pump using your muscle power!
  • Don't wait. Give your baby his/her first bottle before the six week mark and make sure to keep giving at least a bottle a week to keep baby familiar with the mechanics of bottle feeding.
  • Experiment - It may take you a month or two to find out your best pumping time and strategy to get the most for your efforts. Ask around to your mommy friends or the local nurses. Can't hurt to have lots of advice to choose from.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Pitfalls of Breastfeeding

As I mentioned in my previous post about the benefits of breastfeeding, there were some pitfalls that I anticipated and others that I had never imagined.  For example, I knew it would take some time to be comfortable feeding in public. Initially I avoided this like the plague. Eventually, I did surprise myself with how little it bothered me to do it in public and how quickly I was able to do it discreetly. Another disadvantage that I expected was the fact that the feeding responsibility fell solely on my shoulders. All the feedings were mine, day or night, tired or not. I did not have a break from feeding until after the first few weeks when I was ready to start pumping bottles. I was never away from him until then, and our trips out were short and very rushed. They stayed this way until I got comfortable feeding in public or began taking pumped bottles. It was a huge responsibility in the beginning especially, but it got better.

Other less obvious pitfalls involved the physical aspect of breastfeeding. Leaky boobs make for stained shirts and embarrassing moments (use washable breast pads to cut dow on costs), engorgement (really full breasts) can be uncomfortable between feedings (not to mention itchy nipples), and my nipples hurt a lot in the beginning when the baby was getting used to latching properly, which lanolin gel helped soothe.  I also had to avoid certain foods as they made my baby fussy or gassy. There are some foods to avoid that are common among most breastfeeding women (dairy, onions, beans, etc.) and others that are unique to everyone and you are unaware of how they affect your child until you've already eaten them. Sometimes its a guessing game. 

One of the major pitfalls that I experienced was blocked ducts. These are painful lumps in your breasts that occur where the ducts clog and this can lead to infection if not treated. I spent many mornings taking advil to reduce the inflammation and massaging the ducts in the shower. I let the warm water hit them directly to force out the blockage. The pain was bad sometimes, and I was unable to lie on the side the clog was on. Thankfully I was always able to get rid of the blockage on my own.

Blocked ducts led to another dilemma - overactive let down. This happened when the build-up of milk in my breasts( due either to the blocked ducts or to improper drainage because of my inexperience) shot out of my nipples like a fountain spray. Once letdown was triggered, the milk would start flowing FAST and wouldn't stop without me breaking the latch and soaking it up with a cloth. When the milk came fast and hard it scared my little guy to the point of losing his breath when he cried. I ended up having to lie down flat with my baby on top of me to feed to avoid the shooting milk as much as possible. After awhile, it finally subsided,  and he also got used to it and didn't freak out near as much when it happened again.

For me, no matter how many of these issues happened, I was determined to continue breastfeeding.  I still found that the benefits outweighed these hiccups and once myself and my son got used to breastfeeding it became so easy. It became rewarding and well worth all the troubles that I went through in the beginning as my body adjusted.

Pumping Tips to follow in next post!

Momma's Musts
  • Be comfortable. Don't be afraid to feed your baby in public! You can do it discreetly and if someone stares or is rude, that's their problem!
  • Be prepared - always stock extra shirts, breast pads and face clothes/towels with you when you go out with or without baby in case of leaks!
  • Have patience - if you encounter a blocked duct or overactive letdown - take the time to help yourself and your baby work through it. You CAN fix it yourself and the end result is worth it!
  • Finally, be honest with yourself. If any one or more of these issues is more than you can handle - there is nothing wrong with supplementing with or completely switching to formula feeding. It's your baby, your body and your decision. You shouldn't feel forced or even obligated to use your body if you feel uncomfortable in any way.